Q&A: Haggard's Accuser Tells His Story

Denver fitness consultant and former gay escort Mike Jones came forward this week charging that he had a three-year sexual relationship for pay with megachurch pastor Ted Haggard. Haggard, a married father of five, is the leader of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the president of the politically connected National Association of Evangelicals, which has 30 million members nationwide. On Thursday, Haggard resigned as pastor and as NAE president pending an investigation.

Haggard denied the charges in a TV interview Wednesday, but late Thursday night New Life's acting Pastor Ross Parsley wrote an e-mail to the church staff, obtained by The Denver Post, alerting them that "he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true." Friday morning, Haggard told a KUSA reporter that "I called [Jones] to buy some meth, but I threw it away." Haggard continued to deny using methamphetamines or having sex with Jones, whom Haggard said he contacted for a massage after getting a referral from a staffer at a Denver hotel.

NEWSWEEK's Andrew Murr spoke by phone late Thursday night with Jones, 49, at his apartment in Denver. Friday morning, Jones failed a lie-detector test before making an appearance on a radio station that arranged for the test. The administrator of the test said Jones might have failed because of stress or because of his inability to sleep. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: How did you meet Ted Haggard?
Mike Jones: I used to do escorting. I don't know where he found me exactly, but I used to advertise on a site called Rentboy.com and in gay publications in Denver. I usually don't even ask them [how they find me]. He called up and told me he was Art from Kansas City. And I never thought anything about it. Big deal. He kept calling, and usually he blocked the number. But as time went on, he stopped doing that. He would always call from pay phones, but all of a sudden they would always be from 719 [the area code centered on Colorado Springs]. I thought, you know what? I'm not stupid. He's got to be connected with a church somehow. But it meant nothing to me. He was very nice, and I've seen clergy before. They always call from pay phones.

How did you determine he was Haggard?
Honestly, I didn't know who he was until about six months ago. I was laying around watching the History Channel. It was when "The Da Vinci Code" was coming out, and the show was about the Antichrist. All of a sudden he popped up. I said "Oh my God, that's Art!" But his name disappeared so quick, I didn't see who he was. I was going to order the program so I could find out. But to me the strangest thing was the very next morning at, like, five in the morning I was at the gym on the treadmill. Somebody had left one of the religious channels on, and by God, there he was again. This time his name was up there for a long time. So I wrote it down, and later I pulled him up [on the Internet], and I said, "Oh crap, this guy is big." I still didn't know what I was going to do with it. I kept that information and didn't know what to do with it.

You're sure the man you had a relationship with is Ted Haggard?
He would have to have a twin brother in Colorado Springs for it not to be him.

What kind of evidence do you have that it is him?
Well, he had left voice mails before, but I never kept them because they meant nothing to me. Now that I knew who he was, I decided to go ahead and keep them. Not knowing what I wanted to do. Then he sent me some money through the mail, and I had this envelope from Colorado Springs with two $100 bills in it. It's postmarked in August, and it has "Art" written in the corner. It corresponded with one of his voice mails indicating he was going to send me some money.

What made you come forward now?
In Colorado, we have two [ballot] initiatives this year [regarding gay marriage and civil unions for gays]. Reading some of the things he was saying about gay marriage and homosexuality, I started getting pissed. I've been out my whole life. I have a lot of gay friends, and I've seen a lot of gay people suffer. I said I need to decide what I want to do with this.

Then I was listening to Peter Boyles's talk show last Friday, and it was about gay marriage. I was getting pissed listening to the callers, so I e-mailed Peter and I said, "I'm over the hypocrisy from [the religious groups in] Colorado Springs. You want a big story? Give me a call."

I didn't talk to anyone. I am not active with any groups. It was a decision I made on my own. I went though hell deciding what I wanted to do. But I wanted the story out before the election. People are accusing me of doing this for money. I could have blackmailed this guy. I really could have. But I didn't. It could possibly have an effect. It may not change one vote, but I thought I have to do it. I cried many nights thinking about it. I knew that the hypocrisy needed to come out.

You claim that you last saw Haggard in August 2006, so you'd known who he was for months. Did you ever confront him?

Why not?
I don't know. I wanted to. But then I backed off of it. I was being pulled different directions emotionally on this whole thing. I really didn't know what to do. So I never confronted him about it.

I've read you say that Haggard used crystal meth.
He did use drugs in front of me. There was a time when he wanted me to get some for him, but I never ever provided drugs to him.

Was Art frequently asking you to get drugs?
No. He asked me about a year into seeing me, "Hey, Mike, what do you know about meth?" I said it's not something I cared about, but I know I have friends that do, and they think it increases the sexual experience. He said, "Do you think you can get me any?" I said, "Let me see," and I was able to find someone to hook it up.

On the voice-mail messages that you say were left for you by Art, he seems to think you had methamphetamines.
I never provided any drugs to him. He acts like I had a stash, and I never have any drugs around here.

Obviously, your credibility is on the line, and people will look into your background. Have you ever been arrested?
Two years ago I was arrested. I thought I was doing the right thing. I was dating someone who lived in the suburbs. He was supposed to show up somewhere and he didn't. So I drove to his house, and I was banging on doors and windows. And then I went and broke one of the windows to get in, and he was in there with someone else. But the neighbors had called the police. Here I was breaking a window. I was charged with destruction of property. I paid $40 and a one-year deferred sentence or something.

How often did you see Haggard?
Roughly once a month. He would call and then come over. Always at my place, never in public. There were zero emotions involved. Nothing ever.

What were you charging him?
Sometimes a couple of hundred [dollars]. Sometimes he would say here's a little bit more for you.

Haggard's church is investigating. Will you talk to them?
They wanted copies of the [voice-mail] tapes, and my attorney said I could give them to them. I don't know if I'm going to talk to them.

If they ask, would you?
I don't see why that would hurt. I'm being honest on everything I'm saying. So if they wanted to talk to me I probably would.